May 122015

by Doranna

decisions-407742_1280The last time I blogged through, I was pondering the effects of a rut of bad luck/stresses/downturns in a number of areas in my life–the slow transition to floundering joy and the sensation of ongoing loss and failure.

The solution, I decided, is to reframe the journey. Targeting not being [anxious/stressed/sad] is still, in the end, focusing on those negative things. Seeking confidence, on the other hand…

Definitely working better. But not without ongoing opportunities to practice. Continue reading »

Mar 042015

durgin.dart.dsc1120.400Once you embark on the Way of Dog Performance Sports (obedience, rally, tracking, agility), certain things change.  Every cares about the health and well-being of their dogs—but when you’re asking for more from them—and when you’re planning your training around what you hope to accomplish—then not only do the obligations increase, but the whole matter is never far from your radar.

It would be easy to get bogged down on the details.  Continue reading »

Dec 032014

by Doranna

_DSC3932-(ZF-4919-11231-2-001).SM“The emperor has no clothes” has never been a popular (or easy phrase) to utter.  Not even in agility.

So we’re talking about continuing education (training) in this blog event, but first…let’s talk about those courses.  I promise this leads straight to training!

Anyway, you know the courses I mean.  During walk-through half the handlers are grimly unhappy and the other half are quite blithely and vocally certain that those who are unhappy would in fact be happy if they had only trained properly (or completely, or with the right system, or…). Continue reading »

Oct 062014

by Doranna

speech-bubble-mdThe broken brain.  It is Teh Stoopit.  It looks at things it’s known how to do forEVER and it says, “I got nuthin’.”

When it comes to the dogs, I can often see it coming…if not always.  “Nope, can’t teach this new skill right now, because it will break something that I need in the immediate future.”

When I was teaching agility and rally, I saw broken dog brains all the time.  Dogs learning how to back up would forget how to sit.  Dogs learning to stand from sit would forget how to finish to heel.  Dogs learning to stand from down would forget something else altogether. Continue reading »

Jun 042014

by Doranna

cb.dogwalkbay.crop.0058Qualifying!  Winning!  Titles!  W00t!  Rah!

Because hey, that stuff is fun.  It’s lots of fun.  The green Q ribbon is a revered thing.  Add a bit of placement ribbon color and…you know…


But if it was the only marker of success, I can’t imagine many of us would keep training, keep entering…keep running.  Keep on with our little public humility lessons.  Because with some dogs, those placement ribbons never come, and with others, the Q ribbons are a rarity, and with still others, the lessons in humility are ongoing. Continue reading »

Apr 072014

by Doranna


Agility milestones for Connery Beagle!  Now that he’s earned a MACH3, Connery is running in Preferred classes (that is, jumping four inches lower).  He was always the shortest and heaviest dog in his jump height…Beagles are meant to be sturdy little things.  And he likes it Very Much!

He’s qualified in eleven of his twelve runs since then, and taken first place each time.  At ten years old there’s no telling how long he’ll have this much joy in running, but right now we’re having a blast with it!

connery_DSC6958-(ZF-1106-69731-1-002).SM Continue reading »

Mar 052014

A Blue Hound Beagles Blog

(A Dog Agility Blog Event: Starting your puppy)

0405.31.connery.bone.19Talk about awesome reinforcement timing!  This past month, in some weird universal coincidence, big lots of people (okay, a couple) asked me exactly this–when did I start training?  How?  And now here we are, officially chatting about it for the Blog Event!

So here’s my easy answer:  I start my puppies the moment they come home.

Now, anyone who’s gasping, “She puts her puppies over jumps/on the a-frame/dogwalk/WHUTEVER” should just slap their own heads.   Just pause right now and take care of that little chore for me.
Continue reading »

Feb 152014

by Doranna

I find that whatever I’m doing with my animals, I usually run into lessons that apply to writing.  Or to living.  All our critters have something to teach us–maybe some more than others.

ConneryBeagle: Me!  This must be about ME!

Oh, it must be.  And not just randomly, but because we are in celebration mode!

Celebrate! Continue reading »

Sep 042013

by Doranna and the Blue Hound Beagles

(A Dog Agility Blog Event–stop by the event page to see what everyone else has to say! )

When this blog topic came up, I immediately thought about my first agility dog: Jean-Luc Picardigan, the boy no one ever thought could or would compete, due to his birth-related brain-injured strangeness.

Jean-Luc's joy.  Several of us cried over this picture, knowing how far agility brought this boy.

Jean-Luc’s joy. Several of us cried over this picture, knowing how far agility brought this boy.


Then I thought about Belle Cardigan, whose loss still seems so recent I could reach out and touch it. She wasn’t supposed to run again after her non-agility injury and partial paralysis at the age of five, either.

Belle, by Doghouse Arts

Belle’s first trial after “she’ll never run again.”

Well, in spite of his clumsiness, autism, and the very firm grasp of gravity on his solid little body, Jean-Luc ended up titling through his open classes in multiple agility venues. And Belle took a spot as #2 Lifetime Preferred Cardigan when she was awarded her grandfathered PACH title, in spite a trialing schedule that can only charitably be called “light.”

And then there’s ConneryBeagle.

Connery: ME!!

Connery Start Line

The Song of Connery


And there’s me.

Connery's Start Line Song



Thanks to vaccination-triggered immune issues, Connery had barely reached the age of three before his trusted vet and I opened quality of life discussions. And me…my life has been a merry-go-round of doctors doing more harm than good, and a recent diagnosis of long-term Lyme disease. (Whether it is or not is almost moot at this point.)

So screw aging (she says genteelly), and the all the big decisions and accommodations we make as it inevitably happens to us or our dogs. Because most of us, whether we think about it or not, practice those kinds of decisions all along the way.

Agility turned Jean-Luc from a gawkward, clumsy boy incapable of responding to any sensory input–a dog who at two and a half years old had no facial expressions, body or tail language–into a dog who could grin and wag and flip his ears around and interact.

But Jean-Luc wouldn’t have reveled in the complexity of Excellent classes. And so I retired him after his Open titles to continue playing in practice, which he loved so much that it was one of the very last things I did with him.

For him.

He was only seven when I retired him, but it was time. Agility competition changed his life so that he had a life, but when the balance of joy to not enough joy tipped over, then it was time.

One happy boy

One happy boy

At the time Belle was injured, I caught it very early due to her active training. Even so, her situation progressed so quickly enough so she was partially paralyzed before the correct diagnosis was made. But she came back from rehab stronger than anyone expected, and we all realized that she was better off in careful training than as a weak and vulnerable marshmallow. So…she ran.

Not that she didn’t have flares; she was in rehab as often as she was on full activity. Oh, man, did I agonize over making the right choices for her! I pulled her from more trials than I ran her in–but she wailed (loudly) at the injustice when she wasn’t allowed to practice with the other dogs. She wanted. And meanwhile I never made assumptions that there would be another trial, so each run had a sort of bittersweet uber-awareness to it.

Eventually, as Belle came eleven, the balance tipped and I made the decision I had been practicing for all those years–with only 100 points left to her PACH2. It wasn’t a difficult decision to make, but boy, was it hard.

(If the AKC had grandfathered those doggone placement multipliers and given her the same points & scoring received by all the regular class dogs all those years, she would have been pushing PACH3. Not that I’m bitter about this or anything, but that’s another blog…or not.)

Belle giggled her way through courses, as it should be

Belle giggled her way through courses, as it should be…

As for Connery…new meds and routines finally stabilized him. More or less.  His issues are ongoing, and so atypical that the obvious choice has usually been the wrong choice for him.  He’s paid a price for that–including two consecutive injuries caused by a drug that shouldn’t have had a systemic effect at all.

Along the way he’s inspired a fund-raising anthology, and he’s spent most of his life reporting his adventures on LiveJournal, Twitter, or FaceBook. (He’s been quiescent lately, but not because either of us wants it that way. Just…life.)

Connery: Facebook friends are BAWHSOME!

But between his hospitalizations and his illnesses and his injuries, he’s still become the second most titled breed champion Beagle on record (as far as anyone’s been able to determine). Of all the things he does, he loves agility the best. He’s known around here for his joyful song of self–at the start line, at the finish line, and at key obstacles in between.

So as of this fall, at nine years old, he’s back in the game (and off the meds that made him so vulnerable). As with Belle, I know things could change at any time. But for now, I manage his issues, I keep him strong and limber, and I watch his joy.


Connery, running forth. Photo by ByVine Design.

As for me…trials and training requires an exacting balance between what this Lyme body needs to keep going and what becomes too much for it. Friends ask, “Isn’t that too much for you?” And I say, “Yes. But if I don’t do it, it’s worse.” The dogs give me something to focus on, goals to strive for, and reasons to stay fit and active. During the bad times, I slack off or cancel trials. I never make assumptions. I weigh the costs against the joy.

So I figure when it comes to the decisions to be made around aging, no matter how you look at it, I’ve got plenty of practice.

Bet I’m not the only one.

I also figure there’s no need to make a big deal of it–I’ll just do what I always do, which is to make the decisions that seem right.

Really, whether it’s about the dogs or the people, it’s all about the balance of joy. Start there, and you can’t go wrong. So when it’s Dart Beagle’s turn (at three and a half, not for a while I hope!), or Rena Beagle’s (five), I hope the right thing comes obviously and easily. And I’m making sure they have lots of things they love, so when agility isn’t an option, they can still go tracking…or play in obedience…or maybe turn to therapy work. Because in the end, the Now is preparing us for the Then. We just have to listen.


Listen! You might even get a cookie, like Dart Beagle

Shoot, I bet I was supposed to write about changing training routines for older dogs or something. ;>